Friday, March 11, 2016


I watched the Rachel Maddow interview with Elizabeth Warren last night, and was enormously impressed, again, with this remarkable woman--well, actually, both of them, but Warren in particular. She's passionate, forthright, unsparing in her attack on Republican obstructionism, and clear-minded in her analysis of what's wrong with the current political situation. She's also a pragmatist. She wants to get things done.

I'm at once attracted and deeply troubled by the idealism of Bernie Sanders. I disagree with virtually nothing that he says. I, too, for example, am for a single-payer health system; I think health care is a basic human right. I'm a believer in free public education, appropriate to each individual's needs and capabilities. And so on. But I'm with Hillary in that I see no practical way, given the current strength of oppositional right-wing views, to tear Obamacare apart and replace it with a single-payer system. I see no way to provide free college-level education for all without a significant and improbable tax increase... And so on. I suppose, in this sense, from the pragmatic point of view, I'm a gradualist.

It's important to keep one's eye on the ideals. Without them, how would we know which way to go? But fanatical insistence on ideals is what we have on the right side of politics, these days; to have it also on the left could prove disastrous. I remember, sadly, Ralph Nader. I voted, eagerly, for George McGovern. Both of these admirable idealists opened the door wide for the ideals they so passionately opposed, and I'm frankly terrified that this could happen again: our best intentions might well lead to a political inferno. The prospect of a Trump or a Cruz presidency should give us all pause...

Elizabeth Warren is right to have stood this one out. I'm truly grateful for her role as passionate spokesperson for the ideals and policies I believe in. We need that voice. But the sad truth is that this country, with its current precarious balance of power between left and right, is not ready to support a severe leftward swing. Bernie believes he can persuade the electorate of the need for revolution. After all, vast numbers of people, left AND right, are in basic agreement with his outrage at the corrupting influence of money in politics and the power of those "millionaires and billionaires" he constantly invokes. But the arena in which he's fighting is a powerful oligarchy, not a democracy. Short of that still unlikely "revolution"--the American electorate is too accustomed to its own comforts and privileges--the only way the system can be destroyed is from within. That's where Elizabeth Warren insists on staying, and that's where we need her.

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